But the main question is, in what sense is equality of means to be understood? and what constitutes a person’s means? They are, according to Mr. Baer, of two descriptions: productive (if he have any such) and unproductive. The former are capital, and land employed as a source of income; the latter is his income, such parts excepted as he saves and converts into capital. In order, therefore, to reach the whole of his means, we ought to tax his income, and also his land and capital. An income-tax Mr. Baer rejects, and some of the objections to it are stated by him with much force. Income, in his opinion, is best reached by taxes on consumption, imposed on such articles or modes of outlay as can be taxed without interfering with the channels of industry, and as may be considered fair tests of a person’s general expenditure: houses, servants, horses, and carriages Mr. Baer considers to be among the best. Capital and land he would tax by a percentage on their money value, which (as he remarks) represents, in the case of capital, only such part of the income from it as is measured by the ordinary rate of interest, and spares all such part as is either compensation for extra risk, or a return for the skill and industry of the possessor. The tax is to extend to property not yielding income, if of a kind admitting of accumulation, such as houses, furniture, pictures, and sculptures, The practical means of levying such a tax are discussed in some detail by Mr. Baer, and he succeeds to a great extent in showing that there are accessible criteria which would in most cases enable it to be assessed with little danger of fraud by the taxpayer, or undue exaction by the receiver, and without harassing inquisition into private affairs; while, at the worst, the evils of this sort would be many times less for a tax on capital, than they necessarily are for taxes on income.
I think there ought to be in those circumstances, because there is such a destruction of ordinary credit, that it is necessary that some credit should come in to take the place of what is destroyed, in order to prevent great calamities.
Argumentative essay on hunger strike
M. Louis Blanc, therefore, while showing himself much more enlightened than the older school of levellers and democrats, inasmuch as he recognises the connection between low wages and the over-rapid increase of population, appears to have fallen into the same error which was at first committed by Malthus and his followers, that of supposing that because population has a greater power of increase than subsistence, its pressure upon subsistence must be always growing more severe. The difference is that the early Malthusians thought this an irrepressible tendency, while M. Louis Blanc thinks that it can be repressed, but only under a system of Communism. It is a great point gained for truth when it comes to be seen that the tendency to over-population is a fact which Communism, as well as the existing order of society, would have to deal with. And it is much to be rejoiced at that this necessity is admitted by the most considerable chiefs of all existing schools of Socialism. Owen and Fourier, no less than M. Louis Blanc, admitted it, and claimed for their respective systems a pre-eminent power of dealing with this difficulty. However this may be, experience shows that in the existing state of society the pressure of population on subsistence, which is the principal cause of low wages, though a great, is not an increasing evil; on the contrary, the progress of all that is called civilisation has a tendency to diminish it, partly by the more rapid increase of the means of employing and maintaining labour, partly by the increased facilities opened to labour for transporting itself to new countries and unoccupied fields of employment, and partly by a general improvement in the intelligence and prudence of the population. This progress, no doubt, is slow; but it is much that such progress should take place at all, while we are still only in the first stage of that public movement for the education of the whole people, which when more advanced must add greatly to the force of all the two causes of improvement specified above. It is, of course, open to discussion what form of society has the greatest power of dealing successfully with the pressure of population on subsistence, and on this question there is much to be said for Socialism; what was long thought to be its weakest point will, perhaps, prove to be one of its strongest. But it has no just claim to be considered as the sole means of preventing the general and growing degradation of the mass of mankind through the peculiar tendency of poverty to produce over-population. Society as at present constituted is not descending into that abyss, but gradually, though slowly, rising out of it, and this improvement is likely to be progressive if bad laws do not interfere with it.